Is a content marketing strategy more important than a new sales hire?
If you sell for a living or manage a sales team you know it's never been tougher to meet with new prospects.
Plus, there's an even greater sales number challenge.
- < 1%
So, buyers shun phone calls, don’t return voice mails and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever turn a cold call into an appointment. Yet, if you connect with a buyer at the right time, with the right information, you are very likely to build a relationship and sell a deal.
Does An Effective Sales Team Change The Equation?
Sales used to drive the conversation. But, today it’s different and a variety of issues make it challenging to overcome.
The Challenge Of Staffing
Will a more effective sales team improve your results? Maybe. But, with buyers today, an effective sales hire goes beyond finding someone that regularly pounds out 50 prospecting phone calls.
In fact today, buyers want a sales rep that listens, works to understand their needs and is honest in presenting potential solutions. Unfortunately, from failing to do basic research about a prospect to treating them like they are just another name on a list, the average sales reps fails to move the needle.
Plus, top performers are hard to find. The best candidates are happily employed.
Hiring A Book Of Business
What organization hasn’t considered recruiting a competitor sales person with the expectation that they will bring their book of business to your operation. But, that’s no guarantee for success. In a survey of Midwestern Printing Companies, only 11% considered this type of hire a success.
For example, retirements, downsizing and job changes quickly reduce the value of certain contacts. Plus, a buyer may have loyalty to both the sales person you hire and their previous company. Unfortunately, that makes an automatic shift of business unlikely. In addition, “the book” is difficult to quantify. Past business volume isn’t always a predictor of the future. In reality, how much of the volume is associated with being in the right place at the right time and filling orders rather than actively generating business.
Promoting From Within
Promoting a customer service rep or a valued employee from elsewhere in the organization is another common option. But, it’s not perfect. The roles and capacities for success are very different. A CSR effective at managing projects with external and internal contacts doesn’t mean that they possess consultative and solution selling skills or can effectively access and sell high-level decision-makers. Plus, effective sales development requires frequent coaching. Without it, even the best candidate won’t succeed at your desired rate.
The Challenge Of Connecting
Even if you hit a hiring home run, the prospects you desire are still 70 - 90% through their buying journey before they’ll engage with your sales rep. That’s why connecting with today’s buyers require more than a good sales hire.
So, before you go through the hiring process, consider how you can make your effective salespeople more productive.
A Content Marketing Strategy Changes The Conversation
When buyers formulate an enterprise purchase decision, they start with research. 80% - 90% of that research is done online. And the research is done through:
- White Papers
- Use Case Examples
- Case Studies
- Social Media
No one referred to prospecting, scheduling meetings, understanding needs and providing solutions as content. But that’s exactly what it was.
The sales rep served as the information source that helped motivate purchasing decisions. Certainly, persistence, fulfilling a need at the right time and effective selling skills helped them get in the door. But, that was only the start. Effective reps presented information that built awareness and piqued curiosity which led to additional discussions. As the reps understanding of a prospects needs grew, they provided helpful solutions. When a rep did this effectively, accounts were closed and long term relationships built.
Buyers No Longer Use Sales Reps As Their Initial Information Source
Now, buyers don’t want to talk to a sales rep unless they have conducted the research and consider the conversation the next step in the process. In the place of this sales interaction, they use content. In fact, the average buyer consumes 11 pieces of content before buying.
The need for content hasn’t changed but the delivery method has.
To get in front of a buyer today, you need a content marketing strategy. Content in the form of web pages, blog posts, newsletters, case studies, white papers and more that educate and build understanding with your prospects.
Content is the GPS buyers use to find you.
- It’s available online when they conduct research
- It builds your brand through the expertise you provide
- It conveys your value proposition and triggers interactions that are far more difficult to make using past selling techniques
A content marketing strategy will increase the effectiveness of your sales force. It connects with buyers when your sales team can't - without the unanswered phone calls and deleted emails. Plus, it can alert you to the best time to reach out to that prospect, when they are more likely to answer your call. And when you are the first rep to connect with that prospect with helpful information, the chances of you selling the deal increase dramatically.
Lastly, a content marketing strategy may even provide you a more reliable and cost effective alternative to a new sales hire.
A Four Part Series
This is the first of a four part series that will detail the steps you can take to improve your prospecting process and overall sales productivity. It will also detail the expected return on your investment and how that might compare to hiring a new member to your sales team.
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